TRIBUNE, Kan. (AP) — Greeley County voters will decide later this month whether to allow hog giant Seaboard Corp. to locate large confinements there for more than 100,000 hogs.

Residents in October voted 205-121 in a nonbinding referendum to allow major hog farms in the county, but the Kansas secretary of state's office said an official vote was required to change current county restrictions against the farms.

"We thought our straw poll was good enough," said County Clerk Jerri Young, who is also the county's chief elections officer. "We thought our Unified Board of Supervisors could just approve it after it was approved in the straw poll. It wasn't. They couldn't."

Seaboard, the nation's second-largest hog producer, has proposed building up to 120 barns that hold 1,000 hogs apiece. The company said that represents a $30 million investment that would bring at least 18 new jobs to the county.

Residents rejected confined hog operations in a nonbinding vote in 1997, and a year later county commissioners repealed a resolution they had passed in 1994 allowing corporate hog farms.

But with the current soft economy, the county's residents have had an apparent change of heart.

Young said it's likely that voters will come to the same conclusion in the Dec. 21 election that they did in the straw poll, but the county must observe the technicalities nonetheless.

The Garden City Telegram reported Saturday that Michael Thon, head of the Board of Supervisors, will lead a community meeting Dec. 13 to discuss the special election.

Young said Seaboard hasn't spoken out against the state-ordered special election.

"Seaboard wants to make sure everything is done by the book," she said. "They want to be certain of their position. They're not having any second thoughts. They will wait on this election."

If voters approve corporate hog confinements, officials said land acquisition, construction and planning would begin as soon as possible.

After the hog plan was approved in October, Tribune Mayor and Board of Supervisors member Tom Farmer said he wasn't surprised by the county's about-face.

"I had talked to lots of people. My personal poll was very pro hog," Farmer said. "The economy has changed. The people favor it now. In 1997, the community was definitely not in favor."

Information from: The Garden City Telegram,

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.